Category Archives: Do It

Visiting a New Hampshire Gem: Monadnock State Park

Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired

When it comes to hiking in New England, there’s no shortage of options. Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, and all of the beautiful state lands in between are great destinations for a day or an extended trip. On a recent visit to New England, I got to see a not-so-hidden gem that’s well-known and easily accessible, but still pretty special.

Monadnock State Park Summit

About Mount Monadnock

Southwestern New Hampshire’s Monadnock State Park is home to, and essentially exists due to, the presence of 3,165-foot Mount Monadnock. My Boston-based hiking partners described Mount Monadnock as “a giant rock in the middle of fields and woods,” which is, for all intents and purposes, exactly what the mountain looks like.

The term “monadnock” has Native American roots; it’s a word used to describe isolated hills or mountains. As a result of Mount Monadnock’s prominence relative to the surrounding landscape, it’s an incredible sight to behold. The peak is nearly 1,000 feet higher than any neighboring mountain and the summit rewards hikers with expansive views in every direction once you’ve climbed the requisite 2,000+ feet of elevation.

Getting to the Park and Activity Options

Monadnock State Park is also easy to get to, even from Boston; it took our crew an hour and 45 minutes to get from Brighton, Massachusetts to the park. When we arrived at park headquarters just after 10 am on a sunny spring Saturday, the first of two large parking lots was already full. Given how easy the park is to get to and how close the summit trails are to major roadways, it was no surprise. We paid the $5 per person entrance price and received a map with all trails leading to the summit of Mount Monadnock clearly labeled.

In addition to the trails around park headquarters, the summit is accessible via Gilson Pond due east of the mountain, Dublin Lake to the north, an old toll road to the south, and a handful of other access points. And if hiking all day isn’t an appealing activity option for you, Monadnock State Park offers campgrounds with showers, canoe rentals, and kayak rentals in the summer, as well as Nordic skiing and snowshoeing during the winter.

Climbing the Mountain

White Dot Trail

On our trip, my hiking partners and I chose the direct and popular White Dot Trail as our path up Mount Monadnock on recommendation from one of the park rangers. It starts just outside the park visitor center, and as with most trails up the mountain, you’re climbing as soon as you set foot on the trail.

Climbing at Monadnock State Park

Though the White Dot Trail is wide enough for two or more hikers to walk side by side initially, the trail isn’t always easily passable. Less than a mile into the hike, you’ll find yourself climbing hand over hand up rock faces and over boulders. It makes what would otherwise be a typical hike significantly more interesting. After spending the first half of the hike up in the trees, we popped out of the woods and spent the rest of the hike with the summit in clear view. It took our little crew a bit over two hours to make the trip to the summit and back, not including the half hour we spent wandering around on top of the mountain. We opted for a detour along the steeper, rockier White Cross Trail on the descent. It was a nice change of scenery, but given how steep it was, I was glad we opted for the White Dot Trail on our climb up.

Things to Know Before You Go

Monadnock State Park is a fantastic option for day hikes, even if you’re as far away as Boston. But be aware that if you arrive later in the morning in good  weather, the parking lots near the park headquarters will be crowded. The White Dot Trail is the most direct way up, but if you prefer not to see other people on your hikes, other trails will be better options. Use your Pocket Ranger® app to scope out trails before you go and while you’re there.

Though hand over hand climbing on the White Dot Trail was an added fun bonus for our group, be sure you’ve got appropriate footwear on. And be sure to bring a windbreaker for the summit, even on beautiful summer daysMount Monadnock’s prominence makes the summit susceptible to high winds.

Have you been to Monadnock State Park? What other tips do you have for first-time visitors? What are some of your favorite trails there, or around that part of New England?

Back to Basics: 4 Camping Essentials Necessary For Survival

A prepared camper is a happy camper. Before any extended outdoor adventure, it’s important to make sure you have all the camping essentials with you. Yes, we know sleeping bags, tents, proper shoes, and clothing are, in a sense, essential, but we’re talking about items you’d need if something were to go awry. We’re talking about stuff you need if you were to become lost for a long time. Here’s a list to help guide you during your next excursion.


Water is an essential part of life, so it’s super important to have it with you at all times, especially when you’re camping. The weather is going to be hot this summer and you definitely don’t want to get caught outside with no means of hydration. Let’s get hypothetical for just a secsay you’re stranded out in the woods with limited resources and outside communication. Perhaps you’ve heard of the survival Rule of Threes: one cannot survive for more than three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, or three weeks without food. If you’re a true outdoorsperson, you would be able to use any available water source, build a fire, and purify the water, but chances are you’re not Bear Grylls. So please be sure to have this very important camping essential around at all times.


camping essentials


Again, anything could happen on a camping or hiking trip, and it’s best to be proactive rather than reactive. Food is definitely on this list of camping essentials. Trust usyou don’t want to end up like the Canadian man who had to resort to eating his dog. The same dog who had saved his life days earlier by chasing off a bear. Remember our Rule of Threesyou can survive up to three weeks without food. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but you technically could. Pack enough food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and plenty of snacks. You’ll probably hike all day, and you’ll need to replenish your energy. Be sure to not leave food out because it could attract scary wildlife to your campsite.


camping essentials


If you have a connection, you could always use Pocket Ranger®’s advanced GPS mapping features to navigate your way around. If you’re beyond the reach of a signal, then pull out your handy compass. You should always know where you’re going when you’re hiking or camping. If you don’t have some sort of tracking device, it’s easy to mix up directions and go farther away from where you need to be. Plus, you’ll seem real cool if you know how to use a compass.


camping essentials


It’s dark, cold, you hear scary sounds, and you’re afraid. No, you’re not at Charlie Sheen’s house. You’re night camping and you forgot your flashlight. You’ll need the extra light if you’re going to go out and use the restroom or if you need to leave your tent. If there’s no nearby light source, you can misstep and fall down a hill or seriously injure yourself. If you can construct a torch to carry around all night, then go for it. But trust usyou’ll want this camping essential. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries!

Celebrate the Supermoon at the State Parks!

full moon, trees, night sky, black


On July 12, the third Supermoon of 2014 will light up the night sky. What makes a Supermoon so special? A Supermoon happens when the full moon is at its closest point to the earth. Because of this, the Supermoon appears as much as 14% larger in the sky and 30% brighter than the average full moon! Other names for the full moon in July are Thunder Moon, Hay Moon, and Buck Moon (this time of year, male deer begin sprouting new antlers).

micro-moon, Supermoon, superimposed, night sky, black, moons

A micro-moon (smallest full moon) superimposed over a Supermoon [Image:]

And what better way to enjoy this upcoming Supermoon than at the State Parks? From hiking to horseback riding, these parks have come up with great ways to get you outside and moon-gazing:

Moonlight Stroll Concert Series
Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, New York
July 11, 2014

Sonnenberg Gardens, night, lights, greenhouse

Moonlight Stroll at Sonnenberg Gardens [Image:]

Watch the Supermoon rise as you walk through the beautifully lit gardens at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park. In July, flowers such as delphinium, shasta daisies, coneflower, and daylillies will be in full bloom. Once you’ve finished touring the gardens, head to the mansion’s veranda to listen to the Tullamore Celtic Band, featuring dances by The Young School of Irish Dance. Light refreshments, such as delicious wines by the glass, will be sold at Sonnenberg’s Finger Lakes Wine Center.

Moonlight Trail Ride
Little Manatee River State Park, Florida
July 12, 2014

Horseback riding, sunset, silhouette, trail riding


Saddle up and experience the nature trails of Little Manatee River State Park at night. Under the glow of the full moon, watch for many of the park’s animals such as deer, raccoon, armadillos, bobcats, and alligators. Don’t have your own horse? You can rent one from Wolfe’s Born to Ride stable. For those looking to see the park day and night, reserve an equestrian campsite at Little Manatee River State Park using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Florida State Parks.

Moonlight Canoe Tour
Bear Creek Lake State Park, Virginia
July 10, 2014

Canoeing at night, sunset, lake, forest


If horseback riding isn’t your thing, get out in a canoe at Bear Creek Lake State Park to gaze at the full moon this July. Park rangers will guide you through the twilight, identifying creatures of the night and sharing bits of lunar lore. No canoe experience is necessary and, best of all, all equipment is provided.

Full Moon Hikes

To get closest to the beauty of the Supermoon, climb up high!

hiking at night, sunset, headlights, silhouette


Wasatch Mountain State Park, Utah
July 10, 2014

A full moon hike suitable for all abilities is happening at Wasatch Mountain State Park. Meeting at Dutch Hollow Trailhead, look forward to panoramic night views of the valley. Fun fact: Wasatch Mountain State Park was the host of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games!

Washoe Lake State Park, Nevada
July 12, 2014

Watch the sun set and the moon rise on this two-mile, moderate hike inside Washoe Lake State Park. Leashed dogs are welcome! Love to windsurf? Washoe Lake is known for its high winds, making it a popular windsurfing destination. Spend the night at one of the park’s first-come, first-served campsites, so you can windsurf the day away.

Full Moon Mangrove Tour
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, Florida
July 15, 2014

mangrove, sunset, swamp, water, sun, tree

Mangrove at Sunset [Image:]

Under the silver hue of Supermoon-light, canoe through the mangrove at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. On this ranger-guided tour, weave through mangrove canals, coast through the mangrove hammock, and maybe catch a glimpse of fish and roosting birds. These tours are very popular, so make sure to reserve a spot!

Full Moon Kayak Tour
Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia
July 11 & 12, 2014

kayaking, full moon, water


Enjoy a peaceful paddle as the Supermoon crests Lake Rutledge at Hard Labor Creek State Park. On this guided kayak tour, you can learn about the night sky and the history of Hard Labor Creek State Park while stargazing. Stay overnight to play the park’s well-known, 18-hole golf course. The first hole has been called “the hardest starting hole in Georgia!”


Summer Deer Scouting

The second it takes to pull a trigger or release an arrow is the culmination of many hours spent scouting afield. In that sense, the hunting season never ends; your season simply peaks when the shot is taken and the yearlong cycle starts over.



So it’s never too early to scout for deer. The last thing you want to do is unsettle sensitive deer habitat by heading out a week before the season begins to cut shooting lanes or hang a tree stand. By heading out in spring or early summer, you can take note of the previous year’s signage without altering deer behavior the coming fall.

Take note of everything. A well-worn deer trail is no indication of the size or sex of the deer that travel it. During the rut, for example, it is common for bucks, especially larger bucks, to make their own side trails not far from established corridors. Knowing where these are in relation to the major trails will help you understand buck behavior. Feeding habits are going to change as the season progresses but the paths to and from food sources often will not.

deer trail [image:]

deer trail [Image:]

Scrapes and rubs are unambiguous indicators of buck activity. It is generally believed that rubs and scrapes are used leading up to the breeding season as territorial scent markers. While rubs and scrapes do indicate the presence of bucks, they are by no means the last word on a buck’s whereabouts. In fact, recent research suggests that most scrape activity occurs during the nighttime hours.

Rubs are made throughout the fall by bucks rubbing their antlers against smaller trees and depositing scent from the sudoriferous gland (located on the forehead). Scrapes are oval areas pawed out on the forest floor located beneath a low hanging branch onto which a buck has deposited scent by licking and rubbing it with his forehead (scrapes which are smaller and do not contain a licking branch are known as mock scrapes). These can usually be found in groupings or ‘lines’ adjacent deer trails. Because deer often make scrapes in the same area year after year, locating last season’s scrapes will provide you with a general sense of where to expect to find this season’s scrapes.

deer scrape [image:]

deer scrape [Image:]

So, you’ve located an area full of deer sign. Take all your scouting information and mark it on a map or GPS app so that the next time you go scouting you know exactly where everything is. This will help you analyze deer behavior in addition to saving time and energy. Now you can study the area in depth and focus your search on how deer are moving in and around their habitat. Once you think you have the deer figured out, make a prediction about deer movement and test it out. When your predictions start coming true, you know you’re onto something.



Just Add Water: 5 Water Sports to Try This Summer

In the summer, we look for ways to keep from melting into human puddles. Water sports offer a fun and satisfying way to cool off and stay active during the summer months when air-conditioning and popsicles fail us. While we’re happy to simply splash around at a nearby pool or lake, we prefer to get our heart rates up and log in some time at our favorite state parks with some of the following water sports you might want to try this summer.

Paddle Boarding



Don’t let the name fool you; this is no doggy paddle. Paddle boarding is a form of modified surfing that involves either kneeling or standing on a special board and navigating gnarly waves with a single paddle. Paddle boarding requires a combination of balance, coordination, and strength, which results in a full-body work out at any level of paddling. Beach bods here we come! The best part of paddle boarding is its flexibility as a sport and hobby; as a paddler you get what you give, and can modify your “work out” to meet your physical demands. Whether you choose to go the distance (pros paddle upwards of 20 miles at a time), zen out with stand-up paddle board yoga, or just keep it casual, paddle boarding can be as rewarding as it is fun.

River Tubing



Not all water activities seek to make a hardbody out of you; for the lazy water babies out there, there’s river tubing. This leisurely activity attracts kids and adults alike, as it requires little else than the ability to kick back and relax. Since many rivers transcend state boundaries, river tubing allows you to literally float from one state to another, no toll taxes required. Since most tubing facilities permit snacks on the trip, this laid-back activity is the perfect way to get your friends and loved ones away from the boob tube and onto an inner tube!




On the top of our list of best hybrid sports (aqua bowling and rhythmic snorkeling didn’t quite make the cut) is windsurfing. An exciting combination of surfing and sailing, windsurfing thrives on gusty weather, but don’t you dare call it a breeze! In the early 80′s windsurfing was recognized as an Olympic sport, though most of its popularity lies within a less competitive, leisurely crowd. Though the equipment for windsurfing can cost a small fortune, most parks and recreation areas that allow for windsurfing have rental facilities, so you can try out the sport at a relatively low cost.




Put the pedal to the metal…er…water this summer by taking a hydrobike out for a spin on your local lake. Like something out of an H.G. Wells novel, a hydrocycle or hydrobike is a tad awkward looking, but looks can be deceiving—hydrobiking is a blast! This solo sport uses air generated by the rider’s pedaling to propel the bike forward and often resembles a pedal boat rather than a bicycle, as the name suggests.




Hold on tight this summer, because more and more state parks are adding waterskiing to their list of available activities. While it may appear that water skiers are just along for the ride, this watersport requires both upper and lower body strength, balance, and endurance just to stay afloat. On the flip side, don’t be intimidated by the challenge of waterskiing. Once you get the hang of it (get it?) the rush you get from the speed and wave jumping will become positively addicting.


July’s Best State Park Events

park rangers, demos, festival, Eno River, state park, kids


July is bursting with great events (and fireworks!) at state parks around the country. We’ve combed through the event calendars and uncovered the ones that you won’t want to miss:

Three Rivers Regatta
Point State Park, Pennsylvania
July 2 – 4, 2014

Three Rivers Regatta, Point State Park, Pennsylvania, crowd, boats, water, festival

Three Rivers Regatta [Image:]

Point State Park is the place to be this summer! Just a few weeks after holding the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Point State Park gears up for another colossal event: the Three Rivers Regatta. Work on your summer tan while at Regatta Beach (one of only two makeshift inner city beaches in the world), then mosey on over to the larger-than-life replica of the Battle of Ft. McHenry made entirely of sand. Don’t blink or you could miss the powerboat races, where boats frequently top speeds of 125 mph!

Looking for more excitement? This year, the Regatta is hosting the XPogo World Championships in addition to BMX and agility dog stunt shows. A fan favorite is “Anything that Floats,” a parade of handmade, crazily decorated parade floats that bob down the river. This year’s headliners include American rock singer Steve Augeri, former lead vocalist for the rock group Journey, jazz musician Kenny Blake, and Beatlemania Magic. The Regatta culminates with Pittsburgh’s Official 4th of July Celebration fireworks, widely considered to be one of the Top 10 Fourth of July fireworks displays in the country. And did we mention that all of this fun is free? There is no admission fee and no charge for any of the Regatta’s concerts, acts, activities, or events!


Festival for the Eno
Durham City Park, North Carolina
July 4 – 5, 2014

Festival for the Eno, drums, band, live music, North Carolina, crowd, summer, tents

Festival for the Eno [Image:]

Looking for fantastic music this Independence Day weekend? Check out the 35th Annual Festival for the Eno in Durham, North Carolina. With over 65 acts on four stages, there’s sure to be something that strikes your fancy. All proceeds of ticket sales go towards funding important conservation of the Eno River Basin. An assortment of local food trucks will be serving up some great bites, and the Sweetwater Beer Garden at the heart of the festival will be happy to pour you a local brew. Be sure to rent a kayak or canoe so you can spend some quality time paddling around on the festival’s namesake! Need a place to crash for the night? Using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for North Carolina State Parks, you can easily rent a campsite or vacation cabin at Eno River State Park.


World Championship of Catfishing & Independence Day Celebration
Pickwick Landing State Park, Tennessee
July 4 – 6, 2014

Catfish, World Championship, Tennessee, fishermen, summer

World Championship of Catfishing [Image:]

Catfish, fireworks, bluegrass, golf. What better way to celebrate Independence Day? Pickwick Landing State Park will present an excellent fireworks display over Pickwick Lake on July 4th. Spend the night at Pickwick Landing’s inn, so you can tee up at the golf course or lounge at the beach bright and early the next day.

Nearby Savannah, Tennessee, also known as “Catfish Capital of the World,” is currently hosting the National Catfish Derby. Through July 5, any catfish caught in the Tennessee River is eligible to win. (Don’t forget to upload photos of your own monster catch onto Pocket Ranger Trophy Case®!) On July 6, the World Championship of Catfishing will have its final weigh-in at Pickwick Landing State Park with cash and prizes awarded to the winner. Not so interested in noodling for your own catfish? Then stick around for the after-party for free catfish and live music. Or grab a lawn chair and head to the 35th Annual Savannah Bluegrass Festival to listen to the best that Tennessee has to offer.


11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival
Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
July 12 – 13, 2014

Toledo Lighthouse, girl, sunglasses, water, Lake Erie, lighthouse

Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival [Image:]

Looking to tour the inside of a 100-year old lighthouse this summer? Head to the 11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival at Maumee Bay State Park! Since Toledo Lighthouse remains active, this festival is one of only two times annually that the lighthouse is open to visitors. Afterwards, visit the Nautical Village arts & crafts show to pick up some lighthouse-inspired souvenirs and try your luck at the silent auction. With over 200 items at the auction, you’re bound to win something! Help yourself to delicious food like brats, homemade fries, shrimp, and funnel cake while listening to Jimmy Buffet-style musical entertainment at the park’s amphitheatre. And while you can’t spend the night in the lighthouse, you can reserve a campsite (or a yurt!) at Maumee Bay State Park.


Bannack Days
Bannack State Park, Montana
July 19 – 20, 2014

Bannack Days, Montana, collage, pioneers, old, horses, gunfight

Bannack Days [Image:]

A fun-filled weekend celebrating 152 years of history, Bannack Days at Bannack State Park is something you don’t want to miss! Learn how to shoot a black-powder rifle, pan for gold, and hand-dip a souvenir candle. Watch the local blacksmith forge incredible works of art and take a wagon ride along Bannack’s historic main street. Get ready for good eats like ice cream, kettle corn, fry bread, corn on the cob, and fresh lemonade. Throughout both days, there will be plenty of live bluegrass, gospel, and old-time fiddler music. And keep your eyes peeled for a few staged gunfights!


4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival
Glen Elder State Park, Kansas
July 19 – 20, 2014

Wakonda Indian Festival, Native American, dance, feathers, tribal dress, haybale

Wakonda Indian Festival [Image:]

Dancing, drumming, storytelling: Learn all about Native American culture firsthand at the 4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival at Glen Elder State Park. Waconda Lake was once a spring, believed to hold great healing powers. On the shores of this lake, there will be traditional and contemporary Native American drumming and dances, such as the Hoop Dance and Crow Hop Dance. Stories and legends will be told by master storyteller Ron Brave in the festival’s tipi. Help yourself to delicious Indian tacos, fry bread, and buffalo burgers, and browse the fine silverwork, leatherwork, jewelry, and dreamcatchers on display. Since it’s sure to be a bit warm that day, bring along a bathing suit so you can take a dip in Waconda Lake.


Hiking Through the Needles – Canyonlands National Park

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Rising dramatically above the desert landscape, the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park encompasses deep gorges, sandstone basins, and the titular gold pillars that line the trail. Deep in the Needles are some of the Canyonlands’ most secretive highlights: pools set between the walls, narrow caves and slot canyons ripe for exploration, and a spectacular 450-foot arch set within a stone amphitheater. The Needles are so large and wide that hikers are hard-pressed to find other parties in the canyons. Side-trails weave for miles between narrow ravines and camping sites perch on ledges high above dry streambeds. Hiking here is unlike anywhere else.

arch in Canyonlands National Park

Starting just off the Squaw Flat Campground, the trail cuts through an arid desert landscape lined with desert sage, cacti, and desert roses. Within the first few miles, hikers are already climbing through the canyons, surrounded by walls of rusting red stone formed over millennia by wind and water. Cairns mark the way, as the path traverses the angled cliffs into sparse forests of spindly branched trees. The desert atmosphere is at its best as ravens fly overhead, rattlesnakes chase jackrabbits, and rodents burrow into sandy crevices.

While the entire loop can be hiked in one day, it’s best done as a multi-day trip. One of the most unforgettable moments of trekking through the Canyonlands is camping on the ledges over the gorge. Sitting in the tent and watching the sunset illuminate the pillars is one of the highlights of camping in the desert. This is the same landscape that inspired Edward Abbey.

tent in the Canyonlands

From the first campsite, the trail descends into the canyon and tracks towards Elephant Canyon. While it initially treads through the sage and trees, it suddenly opens into a circular basin of towering walls, rock towers, and caves. There are plenty of opportunities for exploration off the beaten path. The cracks in the canyon are wide enough for a person to squeeze through where the light filters in through an opening in the ceiling and dances on the wall while a crevice runs through the center.

The trail drops into tunnels through the rock, emerging on a circular rocky field just under the Needles. A series of bolted ladders ascend over the canyon wall and drop into a dry ancient stream bed set under the sandstone towers. Deep in the gorge, this is where the splendor of the Canyonlands really begins to reveal itself. One of the most spectacular sights in the entire park is the hike to Druid Arch, a trail that because of its complexities and location isn’t heavily treaded.

Michael Restivo hiking up a ladder in Canyonlands National Park.

The trek to Druid Arch starts by walking inside the dry stream, with the Needles towers on one side, canyon wall on the other, and a desert forest growing in the rocky center. While the trail-marker says it’s only two miles, it feels much longer as hikers walk across stone ledges precariously placed along the wall. The trail descends on the other side of the canyon, across waterways and through a boulder field before a scramble and a climb up several bolted ladders brings hikers to one of the most breathtaking sections of the park.

Druid Arch reveals itself slowly as the final climb of the trail slowly curves around the 450-foot tower. The arch rises in the center of an amphitheater-like setting surrounded by smaller towers, but with nothing around that comes close to matching the arch’s elegance and grandeur. The arch is named for its resemblance to Stonehenge, with rectangular, blocky pieces set over a narrow opening. The ledges that circle the tower provide a view from every angle and when seen at dusk, the sandstone emanates a golden glow that radiates on the canyon walls.

hiking through the sand dunes at Canyonlands National Park

The return to the trailhead loops around the opposite end of Elephant Canyon, squeezing between narrow walls, climbing over petrified sand dunes, and ducking between narrow tunnels in the rock. Monument Valley and the La Sal Mountains rise majestically in the distance as the Canyon trail merges with Squaw Flats and emerges to the parking lot.

What makes the Canyonlands special is the trails are never straightforward. Side slots, caves, and treks to the towers means that there’s always going to be a new experience. After seeing the Needles and hiking to its spectacular arch, a return trip is mandatory.

scenic view of Canyonlands National Park